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In a first, Dutch police to employ eagles to combat drones

The Dutch police sent out Hunter, a two-old-female bald eagle?with her trainer to test her abilities. (Representative image) Photograph: (AFP)

WION Netherlands Sep 13, 2016, 07.23 AM (IST)
Dutch police is all set to become the world's first police force to train and employ eagles in order to combat rogue drones. 

"It's a low-tech solution to a hi-tech problem," police spokesman Dennis Janus said referring to the modern-day problem of increasing number of drones in the skies. 

After months of practice, on Monday, Hunter, a two-old-female bald eagle was sent out along with her trainer to test her abilities, AFP news agency reported. 
The police created a fake setting of a visiting State-head, played by a woman officer, who emerges out of the car and is immediately confronted by a drone.

"Attack, attack," came the cry, while sirens began wailing and Hunter reported for duty. She grabbed the drone with her powerful talons and landed safely a few meters away.

The move comes in after rogue drones started combating sensitive areas, such as airports. The trail was started in 2015. 

Police head of operations, Michel Baeten told AFP: "We found out that it is probably one of the most effective counter-measures against hostile drones."

“None of the eagles were hurt, but as for the drones, none of them survived,”  Janus said insisting that positive reformation was used to train the eagles, pieces of chicken or turkey were attached to the drones, attuning the eagle that catching the prey would lead to a reward.

"However, during Monday's demo, Hunter missed the drone several times," he added. 

About 100 police officers will be trained in working with the eagles, and the Dutch "flying squad" with its own birds of prey could go into action from next summer. In the meantime, the police will be using birds supplied by a specialist company, Guard From Above.

"It is a bird, it is an animal, it is not a robot. It is not a flawless solution," Baeten stresses. 

The Dutch police are working on developing a protective glove to cover the birds' talons so that their feet do not get cut while hunting larger objects. 

They are also continuing to explore other methods to combat drones such as using nets carried by another drone, or deploying electronic counter-measures against the hostile craft.

Amid the publicity, police forces from other countries like Germany and France have also been in contact to find out more about the eagle force.

"A lot of law enforcement agencies are really interested in our programme. I think other countries will follow," said Baeten.

The plan is now to launch the eagles whenever drones are believed to be posing a danger to the public, such as during sensitive state visits or if the remote-controlled tiny craft are flying too close to airports.

(WION with inputs from AFP)
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